ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
North Shore Christian School eighth-grader Rebecca Ibanez talks about her experiences in El Salvador.
By BILL BROTHERTON
LYNN — Most middle-school girls go to the mall.
Rebecca Ibanez goes to El Salvador.
The 13-year-old eighth-grader at North Shore Christian School just returned from a missions trip to the Central American nation. It was her fifth missions trip and more are planned, including a return this summer to either El Salvador or Spain.
Rebecca is going places in every sense of the word. Lynn Rotary recently honored her for her charitable/church work. A pianist/singer, she enters the distinguished Boston Arts Academy in the fall. Her love for music comes naturally; her dad, El Salvador native Hector, plays guitar and mom Daniela Ibanez (nee Lopez, a Lynn Tech grad) is trained in audio engineering. Rebecca’s goal is to attend Berklee College of Music and its after-school City Music program.
“I started piano when I was five or six,” said Rebecca. “I didn’t want to do it. I’d say, ‘No. It’s boring.’ But when I got into the youth ministry, I was able to enjoy it. I’ve played our churches in Lynn and Somerville, for about 400 of 500 members on a Sunday. It’s a big deal.
“I’m excited about going to the Boston Arts Academy. It’s a happy option, for me to go into something I’m passionate about,” added Rebecca, who reads music and is into jazz, blues and classical.
“You earned this yourself. Mama only filled out the applications,” added Daniela, who works for a demolition company in downtown Lynn.
During her most recent mission to San Miguel, El Salvador, Rebecca helped the family of Santiago Canello-Bonilla, a little boy who has had three strokes and suffered through serious medical issues in his young life.
“He’s doing really well. He’s six months old now,” said Rebecca, who added the full-length casts on his tiny legs have been removed.
Rebecca and her fellow missionaries also visited the homes of people in need, buying big bags of groceries. “Oil and rice mostly,” she said. “Those will last a long time.”
Missions trips are undertaken by church groups comprised of members of the congregation who travel to a location to volunteer their efforts in completing a helpful community project while spreading the gospel of Jesus.
During a prior mission in Spain, Rebecca was reunited with youth leaders who reinforced religious teachings and helped youths in a small church. The trip culminated with Rebecca and two other students — a singer and drummer — entertaining families in Reus, about 90 minutes south of Barcelona.
The Ibanez family are members of Vida Real Church in Lynn, the sister church to a larger congregation in Somerville. Living a life of purpose is the goal and the church’s “Hope Movement” project helps people in need, building houses, providing medicine, clothing, food and financial assistance.
Rebecca brought to El Salvador $440 donated by her family and members of the church. The entire amount is given to one family, who are encouraged to share it with neighbors in need. “They know who needs it most,” said Daniela.
“I am so proud of my daughter, she’s amazing” added Daniela. “I’m excited for what’s to come in her life. She has been taught that it’s better to give than receive, and she’s taken that to a new level. We, as parents, don’t tell her to what to do. She says to us, ‘I’m going.’ Rebecca makes the choice to help. We feel so blessed.”
Rebecca seems embarrassed. “I don’t brag about it. I’m just, OK, cool. There’s no reward from bragging.”
Priscilla Miro, director of administration at North Shore Christian School, said, on this trip, Rebecca and her team used their gifts and talents to train others in youth leadership through leading a youth retreat and participating in community outreaches.
“This is Rebecca’s fifth missions trip and she knows that she has grown through her participation in these adventures,” Miro said.
Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. He can be reached at [email protected]